Searching for A 'Perfect Fit' College Can Be A Big Mistake

Research shows high schoolers don’t really know what they want in a college.

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The counselors warn against limiting applications to just a few "dream" colleges, but also against going overboard and applying to dozens of colleges. They believe students and parents will be happier if they broaden their notion of "fit" to basic criteria such as affordability, whether the student feels comfortable on campus, and whether the student can be academically challenged, but still succeed.

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“I tell kids that if they are expecting a particular institution to just hand them a great life and an amazing experience, they’re going to be disappointed. They’ll find good and bad teachers anywhere they go, and the random accidents of relationships, experiences, and influence at any given college can’t be predicted,” Moody says.

Instead, students can develop valuable life skills by making the best of whatever college they end up attending. “‘Fit’ happens,” Moody says. “Students grow into it wherever they land, if they’re open-minded and engaged. They need to remember that they’ll be changing and growing in unexpected ways, and maybe the ‘un-fit’ of a college is the most important part of the experience—the unfamiliar people, ideas, and experiences that will push students to new revelations and knowledge about themselves and the world." Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.